For three tantalizing batters, Enochs High had the weight of the entire Modesto Metro Conference on its shoulders.
Host Gregori had pushed across two runs in the seventh to forge a tie, and with no outs had the potential winning run at third base – a run that would have sent the Jaguars into its first MCC baseball championship dogpile.
The celebration never happened. Eagles’ sophomore pitcher C.J. Hackett got out of the jam, then watched his teammates score six runs in the eighth to pull away to a 10-4 victory, putting the MMC race back up for grabs.
“C.J. Hackett did a great job of holding them down,” said Enochs coach Chris Butterfield. “I told him he was giving me gray hairs, but he did a heck of a job. He pitched his way into a couple of spots and was able to bear down and throw some great pitches.”
Jacob Cooper-Steadman’s second triple of the game drove in the first two runs of the eighth and capped his own four-hit, three RBI performance. Derek Badovinac also had four hits to help Enochs send the conference into Easter break with very much remaining to be decided.
Gregori and Enochs are tied atop the MMC at 8-2. Gregori finishes with two games against a dangerous Downey team, while Enochs has two games left against struggling Davis.
If both Gregori and Enochs lose one of their final two games, Beyer (7-3 after a 16-0 blasting of Modesto) could sneak in to grab a share of the title should it sweep its two-game series against Johansen and Downey.
All of that was brought into play because Enochs was able to keep that winning run on third base.
“A win would have been nice, but the loss doesn’t change much,” said Gregori coach Rob Steves. “I like the effort my guys just gave. Yeah, the six-spot doesn’t look real good on the scoreboard.
“Enochs did a great job pitching out of the jam, but we did a great job getting into that situation.”
The wild seventh inning included the top half, when Enochs – leading 3-2 – scored a run thanks to the well-played game’s first mistake.
Pinch-runner Trevor Atrip wandered too far off second base and was in position to get caught in a rundown. But Gregori threw to the wrong base and Atrip was able to advance to third, from where he scored an insurance run on Tyler Butterfield’s single.
The run came in handy when Johnny Allstatt and Hector Guerrero reached off Hackett to open the bottom of the seventh, both moving up a base on Hector Guererro’s bloop single.
Tyler Janitz picked on a 2-2 fastball and drilled a game-tying single to center, sending the speedy Guerrero to third base. Hackett got a strikeout ahead of an intentional walk to load the bases. Guerrero was forced out at home on a ground ball, and one more infield roller got the Eagles out of danger.
“The feeling there in the seventh was that we had to get it done, to do what we had to do,” Cooper-Steadman said. “It was a real big relief when we got out of it – a real big weight off our backs.”
Enochs’ six-spot in the eighth came off four different Gregori pitchers and included four hits, three walks, a hit batsman and the game’s lone error – which came after three runs already had scored.
The rally decided the game. The MMC outcome will have to wait.
“Nothing’s over,” coach Butterfield said. “We’ve put ourselves in position to get a share of the title and if we get a little help, then great.
“But this is a big win for us. To split with Gregori and to split with Beyer is something we feel good about because that means we’re three pretty equal teams.”